The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows those living in Oregon to take up to 12 weeks of leave from their position to care for their family or to recover from medical complications without fear that they will lose their job. Generally speaking, the law is designed to allow individuals to achieve a better balance between their professional lives and their personal lives, however, there are strict requirements and guidelines that must be met before an employee can take a qualified leave of absence.
Can Oregon workers use paid time off in addition to their FMLA leave?
According to a recent article published on the Society for Human Resource Management website, a recent opinion letter from the Department of Justice claims that workers cannot use paid-time off during a time period designated as an FMLA leave of absence in order to extend the amount of time that they are off of work.
For example, if the opinion letter holds up in court, a woman who is taking maternity leave could not use two weeks of paid vacation time immediately following the birth of the child, and then begin a 12-week maternity leave under FMLA when the child was two weeks old.
However, the opinion stated in this letter conflicts with an appellate court case. In Escriba v. Foster Poultry Farms Inc., the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that an employee could use paid vacation time or sick time to receive compensation during a leave of absence that would otherwise qualify under FMLA. The 9th Circuit includes Oregon, as well as 8 other states.
While the conflict exists, employees should still be aware of the opinion letter from the DOJ. This letter will likely be used by future courts as guidance in other FMLA cases.
Oregon and FMLA
Like every other state, eligible Oregon employers are required to provide employees with time off for family or medical reasons. In addition to the federal law, Oregon has its own state law for family and medical leave which outlines the following:
- Employers who employ at least 25 people must allow their employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work without fear that they will lose their job or position within the organization.
- Oregon medical and family leave allows people to take leave for several reasons, including the birth or adoption of a child, to serve as a caretaker for an ailing relative, to receive additional pregnancy or prenatal care, to manage their own health issues, or to grieve the death of a relative.
The additional benefits outlined by the state law afford Oregon employees more opportunity and flexibility than many other states across the country, which appeals to both employees and employers.
What to do if you are being denied time off for family or medical leave
If you work for an organization that qualified for FMLA and you are not receiving the job protection you need to care for your family or yourself, then it’s important that you hire an attorney to help advocate for you. Our employment law firm specializes in cases that involve FMLA benefits, and our experienced attorneys will consider the unique circumstances of your case in order to create a customized plan to help you move forward. We want you to get the compensation that you deserve. Contact us today to set up a consultation appointment.